Have we not only ignored the situation, but in fact had several chances that
we didn't do the job?
We didn't do the job, in part because we didn't understand the dangers. I think
after Sept. 11 those dangers are now much better understood. But we have passed
up one opportunity after another to take action against Saddam, even action
that would have been led by his own Iraqi opposition.
Saddam Hussein is hated throughout Iraq. There is a small group of people who
benefit from his regime, but the vast majority of Iraqis suffer terribly under
his regime. There is an opposition. The opposition is eager to take action
against him. Instead of supporting that opposition, we have held them back.
There seems to be a bit of a schizophrenic attitude toward the Iraqi
National Congress in Washington. Can you define that for us and what it
Yes. The INC is highly regarded on Capitol Hill, and I believe highly regarded
by a number of people who know the INC leadership well. It is not held in high
regard by the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency, who are,
together, the architects of the failed Iraq policy, including the mistakes of
1991 and repeated failures to deal with Saddam since then.
So how has that translated into the debate that is ongoing in Washington
right now over future moves?
It's very clear that the CIA and the State Department are energetic opponents
of support to the Iraqi opposition, partly because they believe that we are
safe. That's going to get serious reconsideration when we examine the prospect
that Saddam Hussein could -- and very possibly will -- transfer weapons of mass
destruction to anonymous terrorists, and thereby escape the retaliatory
capabilities that have always been the basis for the theory that he's in a box
and can't get out.
What is the threshold that needs to be reached before that is believable, or
before that action might actually be taken?
I think sensible people looking at the dangers to the United States,
recognizing how we failed adequately to contain terrorism before Sept. 11, will
conclude that with [Saddam Hussein's] hatred of the United States, with his
blood feud with former President Bush -- [which] could extend to George W. Bush
as well -- to leave him in place and wait for him to take action against us is
simply too dangerous.
So in very practical terms, what does that mean for our policy as of today?
I think we will need a new policy toward Iraq, because the current policy is to
leave Saddam Hussein alone, to subject Iraq to sanctions which are ineffective.
They're increasingly being violated by other countries. They're certainly not
going to change Saddam's policy, and yet that is the policy of the last
administration and, I'm sorry to say, has been the policy of this
But the president has already stated that we're in a war against terrorism.
We will not end until we weed it out, which include states that sponsor or help
terrorists. So help a non-Washington audience; translate that for us.
If the president means what he says -- and I believe he does -- and if he has a
disciplined administration support him -- a Department of State, a Central
Intelligence Agency, a Department of Defense, a National Security Council --
who consider that it is their responsibility to implement his policies, then
they will design a much more aggressive policy toward Iraq and we will no
longer leave Saddam Hussein unencumbered. We'll take action against him.
As far as this war on terrorism, if you were designing it or advising the
administration, would you do it differently? Is the war somewhat flawed at this
Well, we're conducting this war now in phases. Always bet on phase one, because
phase one always happens. Phase two sometimes happens and sometimes it doesn't.
I would have gone about this differently. I would have gone after Iraq
immediately. I would not have relegated it to some subsequent phase. But it's
all right, as long as we get to phase two. Phase two should be overwhelming
support for the Iraqi opposition. They're eager, they're ready to go. I believe
they can do it. We haven't done that until now, and the State Department
opposes doing it.
[This should be] coupled with plans that could involve the direct application
of American military power in support of the Iraqi opposition. Bombing targets
in Iraq without any connection to a strategy seems to me unwise and
I think the regime of Saddam Hussein is far weaker than most people believe,
and what it would take to topple it is a tiny fraction of what was necessary to
expel Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.
Some people will argue, I suppose, that it's not that simple, that it's
another quagmire, the INC is not as easy to rely on, and democracy is not an
easy thing that you set up quickly. What is your response to that
It's certainly true it's not easy. It's not simple. On the other hand, simply
waiting until biological weapons show up in this country because we didn't take
action against Saddam when we had the opportunity would be foolish and
shortsighted, just as it was foolish and shortsighted to not act with vigor
against terrorism in the period in which Al Qaeda was developing into the
organization it became. Ten years ago, Al Qaeda was nothing. We watched it
grow, because after each terrorist act, it was stronger than before. We never
challenged it. We never took significant action against it. And these acts of
terror were regarded as great triumphs and the basis upon which Al Qaeda became
a magnet for people who want to destroy us. ...
Jim Woolsey told us basically he considers that the last decade of actions,
in regards specifically to Iraq, has been feckless. What's your opinion about
the policies they developed and why they developed in the way they have?
Jim's certainly right that the policies were feckless. Saddam Hussein plots the
assassination of a former American president. The American response: a cruise
missile, in an unoccupied intelligence headquarters. And before the dust had
cleared from that missile attack, American officials were at great pains to
explain that we had deliberately chosen the middle of the night so nobody would
be hurt. We looked ridiculous; we looked ineffective; we looked weak. Saddam
must have enjoyed that night.
And the other occasions were similar -- a few missiles here or there. We said
we would take action to keep the inspectors in Iraq. We didn't. We didn't take
effective action. Even Desert Fox, which was a slightly more aggressive bombing
of Iraq, which was intended to restore the inspection regime, ended without
ever restoring the inspection regime. One encounter after the other, and the
winner in each round was Saddam Hussein. I don't think there's any doubt about
What's your opinion on the use of courts to deal with terrorism?
I don't think you can use the courts against sovereign states. You certainly
can't use them against thugs like Saddam Hussein. If you manage to get your
hands on an individual terrorist, I suppose you could try it. But these fellows
are not working for themselves; they're working for governments like Saddam
Hussein's Iraq. To focus our attention on the individuals who are hired to
commit murder rather than the people who hire them is a great mistake. ...
The secretary of state's policies seem to be, to some extent, based on the
fact that you need the coalition, and the coalition is endangered if one, for
instance, goes after Iraq. What is correct or wrong about that belief?
First of all, I have serious doubts about the extent to which we need a
coalition. I don't know what this coalition is, who's in it, who's out of it,
where you get your membership card. Can you be expelled if you're not doing
certain minimum things? Are the Saudis in it? Are they out of it? The Syrians
support terror -- are they in, are they out? It's a very vague concept, and an
Under the best of circumstances, a coalition is a means to an end. If we
confuse means and ends and the coalition becomes an end in itself, then we
won't win the war on terror, because a broad coalition is not dedicated to
winning the war on terror.
So why does Colin Powell believe this?
I think Colin Powell is simply wrong about this, just as I think he was wrong
about the end of the Gulf War. He was in favor of leaving Saddam standing, and
we now know that that was a very costly mistake. Tens of thousands of people
have died since, and Americans are exposed to an unprecedented danger. I think
he's wrong now in believing that the coalition is more important than
effectively going after those states that sponsor terrorism. If the coalition
is going to protect a terrorist state like Saddam, then to hell with the
Some will say that a coalition is necessary for intelligence reasons, for
financial closing down of systems. ...
All of these claims about the benefits of coalition are subject to detailed
analysis. Are we getting intelligence that we can rely on that we would not get
if it were our policy to go after Iraq? I haven't seen anyone demonstrate that
any country is giving us valuable intelligence that would be withheld if it
were our policy to replace Saddam Hussein. Indeed, some of the intelligence
that we're getting is coming from countries who would be delighted if we went
after Saddam Hussein.
In terms of the financial, the effort to control funds going to terrorists, I
have not heard anyone identify a country that would be unwilling to cooperate
in that regard, but is doing so today, if we were go after Saddam Hussein.
The INC maintains that, to some extent, the coalition of Arab nations --
friends of the United States, Saudi Arabia, for instance -- would not be very
interested in seeing help to the INC, because you end up, perhaps, with then a
democratic Iraq, [which might be detrimental to their own regimes]. Do you
believe that that is part of what's going on here?
There may be an element of that. The Saudis certainly do not want to see the
dominoes falling where the dominoes are leaders who use intimidation to stay in
power, and [who] live very well at the expense of their own country. That's a
fair description of the Saudis, in my opinion.
But I also think the Saudis realize that they are threatened by Saddam. If
Saddam had not made the mistake in 1991 of stopping too soon, he would have
overwhelmed Saudi Arabia too, and the Saudis knew that, which is why they were
our coalition partners. So they want to see him out of the way.
What the Saudis fear, and what others in the region fear, is an insubstantial,
ineffective, halfhearted effort against Saddam, because they are left in a
dangerous neighborhood with Saddam still there, after having provoked him
fecklessly. So it's the fecklessness of American policy that stands in the way
of unifying the Gulf states against Saddam. ...
What would need to happen, in your viewpoint, for the administration to turn
I think we're going to turn towards Iraq, because it's impossible to claim
victory in the war against terrorism when a man who supports terror continues
to occupy power in Iraq. But the important change came with the discovery that
anthrax, a lethal biological weapon, can be delivered anonymously to Americans.
It was done on a small scale, by posting letters with anthrax in them. But
surely the lesson of that is that we can be attacked anonymously with
So the argument on which those prepared to accept Saddam Hussein forever have
based their case -- which is that we can retaliate and punish him so severely
that he won't attempt to use his weapons of mass destruction -- that argument
is out the window, because it is now clear that he has the option of providing
weapons of mass destruction to anonymous terrorists. That is a threat that this
country would be foolish to accept.
But doesn't it then have to be proven that the anthrax in the hands of the
terrorists in the United States that are sending it to our news media and to
our government officials is Iraqi anthrax?
No, not at all. In fact, I rather doubt that it's Iraqi anthrax. But what the
delivery of anthrax through the mail forces us to consider is a range of
options available to Saddam Hussein that we didn't consider before. Because the
argument that we could deter Saddam by threatening to destroy him if he used
weapons of mass destruction against us is no longer relevant, if you allow the
possibility that he could deliver weapons of mass destruction through anonymous
third parties. And there's no question he has the capacity to do that. ...
Let me put it this way: Iraq's time will come. Either that, or we will end the
war against terrorism without a victory, as we ended the war against Saddam
Hussein in 1991 without a victory. ...
Does that mean that, once you've done with Iraq, you need to turn your
attention to Iran and to Syria?
There are a number of countries that have been supporting terrorism. Many of
them get very little benefit out of it. On the other hand, there's been no
cost. So as they look at the costs and benefits of offering hospitality, safe
haven to terrorists, they have concluded that on balance it's a good thing for
them to do. If now we impose serious costs, if we say to them, "If you support
terrorism, you're going to be at war with the United States, and you may be
destroyed in the process," I think several of these governments will simply get
out of the support of terrorism business. It will be too costly, the risks will
be too great, and they will exercise some rational judgment and decide they're
not going to do that anymore.
But isn't there an example of basically going after another terrorist state?
The attacks on Libya during the Reagan administration didn't seem to dissuade
other terrorist states.
It is true that when the Reagan administration went after Libya, it succeeded
only in repressing Libyan terrorism. It wasn't followed up when terrorism began
to show up elsewhere, and that was the mistake. Because we didn't say when we
went after [Qaddafi] [that] we will go after anyone else who supports
terrorism. The ball was dropped at that point, particularly during the long
period of the Clinton administration.
... What's your opinion of what the evidence is out there [against Iraq],
and why is it relevant?
There's a great deal of circumstantial evidence that Iraq was involved in the
1993 attempt on the World Trade Center. Ramzi Yousef, who sits in jail now, was
traveling on an Iraqi passport. There were lots of communications back to Iraq
that suggest there were people in Iraq who were at least cognizant of the
operation and possibly even directing it. Laurie Mylroie has done some serious
work on this, and it's very convincing. It's not conclusive at this stage. It
was the view of the chief FBI officer who dealt with the case, who passed away,
that Iraq was involved. We may never be able to prove conclusively whether Iraq
was involved or not, but there's strong circumstantial evidence that suggests
Iraq was indeed involved.
Why is that relevant to the decisions being made today?
I don't think it is relevant to the decisions being made today. What is
relevant to the decisions being made today is one simple question: Does Saddam
Hussein, in power in Iraq, in possession of weapons of mass destruction, pose a
threat to the United States that is of such a magnitude that we had better take
action before he takes action against us? That's the issue. It has little to do
with the past history.
But we do know that he has connections with terrorist networks, that he has
training facilities for terrorists. At Salman Pak, there's a facility that has
mock-ups of a variety of aircraft so that hijackers can be trained. We know
that he has motive; we know he has capability. It's a question of whether we
wait and hope for the best.
We talked to a refugee from Iraq who INC has been working with, a gentleman
who knows what's been happening at Salman Pak. How believable is the evidence
that is out there? What we're told is that terrorists are being trained from
many Arab nations, some fundamentalists. They're being trained in how to take
over planes with knives and/or pens, and how to use them as a terrorist act. Is
it believable? Is it relevant? Why is it important?
I think it's believable. Look. I don't believe that we will again experience an
attack exactly like that of Sept. 11. For one thing, we now know that you never
yield control of the aircraft. Instructions to pilots were exactly the
opposite, before Sept. 11. So it isn't going to be a repetition.
We're always fighting the last war. I can't tell you what form a new terrorist
attack will take. The one that troubles me the most is the use of biological
weapons, disseminated not by Iraqi intelligence officials, but by terrorists
who are prepared to commit suicide, who would cheerfully kill millions of
Americans, if they could do it. All that remains is to organize their entry
into the United States together with those biological agents. And that is
something that Saddam Hussein and his intelligence apparatus is in a position
So we can either hope he doesn't do what we know he can do, and wait, or we can
consider that the threat is large enough to justify action today.
But is the threat alone enough? Doesn't evidence need to be compiled so that
one understands that there is a tie to Iraq and terrorist acts, before making a
move to include them this war on terrorism?
No. I don't know why we would say to ourselves, "Saddam Hussein has biological
weapons. He has a well-known hatred of the United States. He spoke approvingly
of the attacks on Sept. 11. But despite all of that, we will not take any
action against him until we find evidence that he did what." This is a question
of protecting ourselves, and we are in a situation where the only credible
defense has to include a strong offense. It is too easy to get into the United
States. It is too easy to recruit suicide bombers. It is too easy to
disseminate weapons of mass destruction. So either we take this to the enemy,
or we wait, and hope the enemy chooses not to take it to us. But if we wait, it
will be his choice, and not ours.
There has been some reporting on the meetings of the Defense Policy Board
and the importance of this very influential group of former and present day
policy makers. You're still the chair, right?
Can you in any way define the importance of the board, in general
Well, I think the importance of the board is really the importance of the
individuals who serve on it. When you have people like Henry Kissinger and
James Schlesinger and Harold Brown and Newt Gingrich and Tom Foley and others
applying their considerable intelligence and experience to a difficult issue,
that counts for something. And they have done that, and they can all speak for
themselves about their own views.
What is the relevance that there are representatives of the INC there,
giving testimony to this influential group?
I wouldn't characterize that part of the deliberation in that way. We thought
it was useful for them to meet some of the opposition, so that they would
understand who among the opponents of Saddam might be available to help rid the
world of Saddam.
Are we still basically at war with Iraq after ten years? We've been bombing
them time and time again, here and there; we assume Iraq is back in the
business of biological, chemical and nuclear, probably. Is this a war that's
continuing? Or do we not understand, really, the reality of what's going on
What has happened is that, after the defeat of Saddam's forces in Kuwait in
1991, and the imposition of a number of U.N. resolutions aimed at protecting
the world against his weapons of mass destruction, we have lost one engagement
after another. The result is that those U.N. resolutions are now in the trash
can. He's simply defied them, and gotten away with it. There are no inspectors
in Iraq today, so we don't know what he is doing. But there's every reason to
believe that he continues aggressively to pursue the acquisition of weapons of
So he's no longer in Kuwait. But he's very much in power in Iraq, because he is
unchallenged in Iraq. It seems to me foolish in the extreme not to challenge
his power and authority in Iraq, since so many Iraqis would gladly join in the
effort to do that.
Why is it that we still haven't released the $90 million promised to them?
Can you shed any light on that?
The money that was promised to the Iraqi opposition was never spent by the
Clinton administration, because they were basically opposed to the policy. So
far, that has been the attitude of the Department of State even in this
administration, despite a very strong declaration in the platform on which
President Bush ran, and despite, I think, the president's own instincts. So
it's going to take a while before some parts of this government come to the
inevitable conclusion that, as long as Saddam is in the position he's in, with
the weapons he possesses, we are in danger. And I have no doubt that eventually
even my friends at the State Department will come to that conclusion. ...
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the anthrax attacks
that are taking place now ... in some ways, were these inevitable?
... An attack on this scale was inevitable, because we failed to respond
to lesser attacks, and the terrorists were emboldened by their successes. And
make no mistake about it: every time they killed Americans or carried out an
attack against American property abroad, they considered that they had achieved
a victory. They determined to go from victory to victory, and we did not
interfere with that. ...
Is there any point about Iraq one must understand so that an educated view
can be made?
It's important to recognize that Iraq is a country with an enormously talented
people, and that is well understood by the rest of the Arab world. So there is
real concern when the rest of the Arab world observes suffering in Iraq, which
is now widely attributed, I think wrongly, to the embargo that's been in effect
for many years. That is very different from believing that the Arab world
supports Saddam Hussein, or that it would not welcome the elimination of Saddam
Hussein's regime. I think there would be dancing in the streets if Saddam were
removed from power, and that reaction of the Iraqi people would be reflected in
the attitude of the Arab world, generally. So the notion that if we go after
Iraq we are somehow going to advance in the direction of a war against Islam
that will turn out to be far worse for us, I think is really quite mistaken.
The common belief is that our soldiers are not welcomed very easily in any
Arab nation today, even when there is no battle going on. It's hard for an
American public to believe that the Arab allies will indeed welcome us with
open arms in any endeavor against any other Arab nation. Is that a mistaken a
Yes, I think it's a mistaken view. This idea of Arab solidarity is complete
nonsense. It's been nonsense for as long as I can remember. They're at each
other's throats all the time. Saddam invades Kuwait. You have a war between
Iraq and Iran. Although Iran is not an Arab nation, it's a Muslim nation. You
have Jordan fighting Syria in the 1970s. It's just nonsense to suggest that
there's solidarity. There is no solidarity there. ...
If we go into Iraq and we take down Hussein?
Then I think it's over for the terrorists.
Why so optimistic?
Because having destroyed the Taliban, having destroyed Saddam's regime, the
message to the others is, "You're next." Two words. Very efficient diplomacy. "
You're next, and if you don't shut down the terrorist networks on your
territory, we'll take you down, too. Is it worth it?" Of course it isn't worth
it. It isn't worth it for any of them.
The nightmare scenario is that we get bogged down in Afghanistan, we can't
find bin Laden in some cave. We go into Iraq, we have problems, we're hit back
at home with biological weapons or whatever; we lose the public, or start
losing the public. Things start getting rattled. It's not clean. It's
difficult. What happens?
... I think we will be vulnerable in a way that this country has never
been vulnerable before. And this is not a war we cannot afford to lose.
So we have to win this war?
We have to win this war, which is why I'm confident that we will not seek to
win it in the cheapest and easiest of all ways, which is to define it so that
it is already won. There was that old line about Vietnam: that we should
declare victory and go home. You can't do that in this war. Declare victory;
but if you haven't won victory, you're as vulnerable as before you made the
declaration. So that isn't an option.
Does Washington understand that?
I think the president understands that. I think the secretary of defense
understands it. I think the vice president understands it, and I hope others
Does the State Department get won over, or does the State Department at some
point argue their case to the death?
There are some very intelligent and talented people at the Department of State,
and the secretary himself is immensely talented. They'll come to the right
conclusion at the end. But they're going to have to work through a lot of
historical beliefs before they get there.
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